Representatives from fossil fuel industry outnumber all other delegations at COP26


At least 503 fossil fuel lobbyists, said to be affiliated with some of the world’s biggest polluting oil and gas giants, have been granted access to COP26, according to analysis by climate activists. 

Data analysis of the UN’s provisional list of named attendees by Corporate Accountability, Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), Glasgow Calls Out Polluters and Global Witness, has revealed the scale at which corporate actors with a stake in the continued burning of fossil fuels have been enjoying access to these critical talks. Researchers counted the number of individuals either directly affiliated with fossil fuel corporations, including the likes of Shell, Gazprom and BP or attending as members of delegations that act on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. 

Those who conducted the analysis believe that organisations that have financial or vested interests in the production or burning of fossil fuels should be excluded from the talks. 

The analysis found that over 100 fossil fuel companies are represented at COP26, with 30 trade associations and membership organisations also present. If the fossil fuel lobby were a country delegation at COP, it would be the largest with over two dozen more members than the largest country delegation. 

This news comes as groups around the world, many from countries that bear the brunt of climate impacts, have criticised unequal access to COP26, citing barriers to participation amidst vaccine apartheid, costly travel restrictions and a lack of safeguarding guarantees.  

Murray Worthy, gas campaign leader at Global Witness, said: “With the world quickly running out of time to avert climate disaster, this COP absolutely must be a success. The case for meaningful global action must not be diverted by a festival of polluters and their mouthpieces, who have no interest in seeing the changes we need to protect people and the planet. 

“The presence of hundreds of those being paid to push the toxic interests of polluting fossil fuel companies will only increase the scepticism of climate activists who see these talks as more evidence of global leaders’ dithering and delaying. The scale of the challenge ahead means there is no time for us to be diverted by greenwashing or meaningless corporate promises not matched by delivery.  

“It is time for politicians to show they are serious about ending the influence of big polluters over political decision-making and commit to a future where expert and activist voices are given centre stage.” 

Rachel Rose Jackson, director of climate research and policy at Corporate Accountability, said: “The architects of the climate crisis cannot build a liveable and just future when they have already burnt the house down. With big polluters in the building, and so many of those on the frontlines left outside due to vaccine apartheid, COP26 is compromised. It is people on the front lines of this crisis, not polluters, who have the life raft we need at this moment.” 

Activists also noted that the presence of lobbyists at COP does not end with the fossil fuel industry. Other polluting industries deeply implicated in the climate crisis, such as finance, agribusiness, and transportation are also present, although they are generally not included in the analysis. 

These new findings build on calls in recent years to protect the integrity of the UN’s climate negotiations by establishing clear conflict of interest policies. Over recent years countries collectively representing almost 70 per cent of the world’s population requested these conflicts of interest be addressed. 

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